Spring has come and gone, which for us means strawberries season ended. We have over one-thousand plants in the ground and they produced fruit. Last year we had four hundred plants in the ground and opened up an organic pick your own strawberry patch. We did not advertise because this was our first time. We needed to get our feet wet to figure out what we were doing right and wrong. As is the only constant on the farm, we were doing more wrong then right, but we knew that might happen. We wanted a soft open so we would not disappoint too many people and get past our learning curve.
In order to have strawberries for a couple of weeks, we planted two-hundred early and two hundred late season varieties. We have been having weird weather, last year, was hotter than normal, and both types of strawberries came in at the same time, which turned out to be good because demand was overwhelming. Turnout was from word of mouth and our email list but we quickly learned we did not have enough to meet demand. That is why we planted another six-hundred bring this years total to one thousand plus.
We did a lot of research to find out if Maryland ever had a strawberry organic pick your own. We talked to the people at the Department of Agriculture, some of the older organic farmers and scoured news articles. It seemed that we were going to be the first farm in the state to do that. Most of our colleagues said that we should sell them for a premium and not as a pick your own. My thought was as the people make their way out to the berries they would see the chickens and other things growing and come back for them.
Sounded like a good idea but it did not really materialize. Probably because we opened and before we knew it, we had to turn people away. It was the classic mistake of under estimating demand and consumers not being happy with being mislead. Although that was not our intention, as I said we did not even advertise but word spread.
We have worked the kinks out and once again tried a limited pick your own, while at the same time selling berries at the farmers market. We love strawberries and have grown them every year since we moved in. Strawberries are one of those future plants, like asparagus or grapes, apples or any fruit tree for that matter. Which means you put all this labor upfront but you do not get anything until the mature plant is capable of producing its fruit.
For our grapes, it is seven years and counting. I know some of you are reading this and turning a skeptical eye. I would question it too, however, I live it and I can tell you the plant struggles to maintain existence and if you have as steep of a learning curve as we tend to have it might even be extended still. I think our first bunch of edible grapes came in the sixth year, by that time we had experimented with every organic fungicide and insecticide there was. We still do not produce a sell-able amount but I do get a few every time I mow the land around them. Grapes are very temperamental; we picked the ones best suited for our area and climate. We missed the part about virus and bacterial resistance but that has now become a lessoned learned.
As for the other long-term fruits and vegetables, they are slowly filling in and growing. Weeding is always a problem but we use and reuse landscape fabric and straw. Problem is sometimes the straw itself is not put down thick enough and its seeds grow. Talk about adding insult to injury. As I have heard thousands of times, “nothing good ever came from something easy” however, it sure would be nice just occasionally.
Buy Local: Monsanto may have the upper hand but you have the choice!